Fifty years after his death, Stalin remains one of the creators of our world. The scale of his crimes has made him, along with Hitler, the very personification of evil. Yet while we know much about Hitler, Stalin and his regime remain mysterious. Now, in this enthralling history of Stalin's imperial court, the fear and betrayal, privilege and debauchery, family life and murderous brutality are brought blazingly to life.
Who was the boy from Georgia who rose to rule the Empire of the Tsars? Who were his Himmler, Göring, Goebbels? How did these grandees rule? How did the 'top ten' families live? Exploring every aspect of this supreme politician, from his doomed marriage and mistresses, and his obsession with film, music and literature, to his identification with the Tsars, Simon Sebag Montefiore unveils a less enigmatic, more intimate Stalin, no less brutal but more human, and always astonishing.
Stalin organised the deadly but informal game of power amongst his courtiers at dinners, dances, and singsongs at Black Sea villas and Kremlin apartments: a secret, but strangely cosy world with a dynamic, colourful cast of killers, fanatics, degenerates and adventurers. From the murderous bisexual dwarf Yezhov to the depraved but gifted Beria, each had their role: during the second world war, Stalin played the statesman with Churchill and Roosevelt aided by Molotov while, with Marshal Zhukov, he became the triumphant warlord. They lived on ice, killing others to stay alive, sleeping with pistols under their pillows; their wives murdered on Stalin's whim, their children living by a code of lies. Yet they kept their quasi-religious faith in the Bolshevism that justified so much death.
Based on a wealth of new materials from Stalin's archives, freshly opened in 2000, interviews with witnesses and massive research from Moscow to the Black Sea, this is a sensitive but damning portrait of the Genghis Khan of our epoch.
'A grim masterpiece, shot through with lashes of black humour... The personal details are riveting'
Antonia Fraser, Mail on Sunday
'Horrific, revelatory and sobering... should be required reading in Russia'John Le Carré, Observer
'The most civilised and elegant chronicle of brutality and ruthlessness I have ever read'Ruth Rendell, Daily Telegraph Books of the Year
'Extraordinary... this book will provide new insights on every page.'Anne Applebaum, Evening Standard